Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Live Review: Liverpool Sound City: Double Denim Showcase (Saturday) (BidoLito!)


The Kazimier. Liverpool Sound City.

Wolstenholme Square is the pounding, bleeding, beating out your chest because you’ve had too many amphetamines heart of Liverpool Sound City. I mean lets face it, you could bounce around the square all weekend and still come away with fifty new favourite artists. This is where I find myself drinking into oblivion and celebrating the end of Liverpool Sound City.

Before Oblivion though, we have Italian producer MIND ENTERPRISES. The enviably named Andrea Tirone’s had a single out on the excellent Double Denim Records last Summer with Sister, and sits beneath one of the more experimental line ups of the festival. The vocals on Summer fight for space with a warped, skittish accompaniment to disorientating effect, whilst aforementioned Sister brings a more kitchen sink approach, as a steady disco beat is interrupted by infrequent stabs of African guitar. Sonically it’s all very impressive and displays a remarkable pallet of sounds, but it doesn’t quite manage to bring a jaded Kazimier to a stand, as that dichotomy between electronic music that is quick enough to move your feet but lacking the bass to dance to is exposed.

London’s BROLIN takes to the stage sporting a gold mask and snapback with an audacity that vastly juxtaposes his delicate and fragile take on R&B. Reykjavik’s muffled drum-machine backdrop allows a dazzling array of percussion to build above it, until you can hardly hear the “I will lead you astray” refrain. Lead away, sir. NYC was one of the best songs of 2012 and is an inevitable highlight, as Brolin gently whispers, “NYC is the Place I have to be” to a hushed (and still seated) audience. It should sound crass and affected, but the twinkling xylophone and pounding piano transform the couplet into a poignant display of loss and what could have been.  

AMATEUR BEST, or Joe Flory, has had a good year. His debut Album No Thrills came out on Double Denim last month to acclaim both sides of the Atlantic, landing him at the front of the long list of one-man-bands emerging from London. Despite being the only act on tonight’s bill to have an LP out, his set seems alarmingly short.  There are some great songs fighting to get out here, like the bubbling Ready for the Good Life, but where Flory’s ennui and disinterest is charismatic on the record; tonight it just comes across as well – disinterest.

Local heroes OUTFIT have already developed cult status around these parts. Despite having only releases two EPs since 2011, they have remained at the top of the Liverpool Music hierarchy. It’s not that we don’t have great, hard-working bands here; it’s just that none of them have done it with the same flair, the same charm, the same who-gives-a-fuck as Outfit have. Maybe its their elusiveness; I mean before finally announcing their debut album Performance last month, you wouldn’t have been surprised to see them pack it in for good. More importantly though, is that there is nothing notably local about their music. In a city where like it or not, its sound is defined by mid level guitar bands, Outfit provide local music fans with a chance to identify their music scene with a national sensibility.

Opening with the brooding Performance, that syncopated percussion and dissonant chord changes surround the audience in a sinister atmosphere. New songs House on Fire and Nothing Big finally give the audience a beat to work with, but fall flat on childish imagery and a chorus that lacks the direction and the purpose to really take us anywhere.  Two Islands draws their set, and Liverpool Sound City to a close. And as one of the best songs to come out of Liverpool in the last ten years (even better than Whole Again) it’s a fitting finale. This is a fucking remarkable song, as its snarly executed percussion and straightforward funk-fusion leaves us in that rare, perfect middle ground between life affirming dance floor euphoria and introverted headphone bliss.

Mike Townsend

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Live Review: No Ceremony /// (BidoLito! Sound City Daily)

No Ceremony ///
Liverpool Sound City (Friday 3rd May)
The East Village Arts Club

There is an air of intrigue hanging amongst the dry ice filling up the EVAC loft. Other than a few SoundCloud posts, Manchester’s NO CEREMONY /// have tip-toed their way onto our blogs and magazines behind a thick veil of mystery. Search for them on YouTube at your own risk, where you will be greeted by a series of bizarre music videos that serve no real purpose other than to creep you the fuck out.

Flanked by her band mates standing attentively in black suits, front-woman Kelly’s face is lit by a white spot light, almost as if she is about to tell us a ghost story. The more delicate members in the audience quickly wish she had, as the band launch ferociously into their first track Holdonme. New single Hurtlove’s chugging drum-machine and Café del Mar piano provides an inviting soundscape. Don’t be fooled though; auto-tuned vocals meander menacingly above, whispering quiet words of warning as if there were demons coming through the walls. 

Heartbreaker digs a little deeper, as an over-driven guitar peddles its way through a thick sea of brooding kick-drum and throbbing synths to create a sound that builds this expansive space before smashing it down with a ludicrously stomach-churning bass. I’m serious here - audience members literally back away from the stage, some even run to the bathrooms where I imagine they have gone to be sick.

Stage lights frame the stage colorfully, as a backdrop projected images of babies heads flicker disturbingly. We are in a horrible dystopian nightmare, and it feels fucking impressive.

Live Review: King Krule (BidoLito! Sound City Daily)

King Krule
Liverpool Sound City (Friday 3rd May)
Duke Street Garage

“Your eyes, they were cold” growls Archie Marshall, prompting whispers and nudges among a reverent crowd shocked by a voice deeper than The Grand Canyon. It isn’t just his voice that contradicts his youthful veneer, as Portrait Of Black And Blue reflects on a disillusioned generation, “trapped in a lizard state...looking for an escape” with the tired wisdom of a man who has seen and done too many things. The Noose Of Jah City, his most focused song to date, provides a likely highlight as the spectral guitar line and layers of reverb come together to allow Marshall’s baritone to hang compellingly in the mist.

King Krule has often been criticised for appearing too affected, as his BRIT School past leaves him vulnerable to accusations of insincerity. No one could accuse him of being detached though and, lyrically, this is pretty violent stuff: “Now I’m covered in blood on the bed / And it’s a familiar scene” snarls Archie on Bleak Blake. What’s interesting about the performance is that these vehemently vicious lyrical moments are painted onto a warm, calm musical canvas. 

It’s one of a number of paradox’s that makes him so difficult to understand yet so exciting to watch. There’s the outward, brash punk swagger of Strummer against the introspective moments of reflection, the bluesy jangled guitars against the hip-hop, vocal flow; all working against each other to create one of the most intense, exhilarating performance of the festival so far.

Live Review: Chlöe Howl (BidoLito! Sound City Daily)

Chlöe Howl
Liverpool Sound City (Friday 3rd May)
Liverpool Academy Of Arts

If 2012 was the year of the guitar then 2013 is definitely the year of the female. Artists like Charli XCX, Icona Pop, Sky Ferreira and tonight’s guest CHLOE HOWL are bridging the gap between pop and indie, nestling comfortably between the UK Top 40 and the Pitchfork reviews column in a way that transcends our modern perception of acclaim.

Chloe ushers quietly on stage before solemnly introducing herself to a sparse, disinterested crowd. With a Radio 1 rotation already in place, her disappointment is justified. New single Rumour announces itself among a sea of sparkling synths and hi-hats, as that obnoxious chorus of “I’m just trying to work out / How to be like myself” charges onwards with an infectious energy. Paper Heart and Pull The Strings are equally as impressive, balancing sensitive folk with quirky synth pop in the same way as Tegan and Sarah have done so well this year.

There are some similarities to Kate Nash here, and before you slam your pint down in disgust, I mean this with the greatest of compliments. When Foundations first came about, Kate embodied an empowered, do-what-the- fuck-I-like mentality that was missing from female pop music. Tonight’s performance from Chloe exemplifies this, with her seductive winks at the front row and her MC-esque hand gestures radiating a confidence and self-assurance that will propel her far beyond these modest surroundings.

Between all the buoyancy and poise, there’s an air of introspection; even solipsism to Chloe’s songs which makes her gloriously fascinating. Believe me Chloe; you’re doing just fine. 

Live Review: Bipolar Sunshine (BidoLito! Sound City Daily)

Bipolar Sunshine
Liverpool Sound City (Thursday 2nd May)
The Duke Street Garage

With representatives from Polydor watching on, it’s fair to say that tonight’s set from London’s BIPLOAR SUNSHINE comes draped in some considerable hype. Sporting a shirt that the members of Swim Deep would be embarrassed to wear, front man (and former Kid British member) Adio Merchant raises his shoulders, puffs his chest and introduces his band as if we were a sold-out Brixton Academy. 

New track Blossom is led by an abrasive, almost dubby guitar track, providing a menacing soundscape for Adio’s gorgeous falsetto to float mournfully above it. The droned and abrasive textures of the instrumental lulls you into a trance, allowing the small gestures of the vocal line to prey on those melodic impulses still hiding somewhere inside you.

The sleek, alabaster aesthetic of Fire is a far cry from the heavily distorted and distant sounds of the songs that precede it. Adio speaks softly over stabbed chords from the lead guitar, as if he is narrating a story about his own shortcomings during the final scene of a Wes Anderson film. Sampled extracts from The Notebook linger gracefully during its interlude, delivering an emotional punch that even the most cynical, emotionally negligent boyfriends amongst us wouldn’t be able to resist. Amongst an already impressive recital of works from an artist without an official release, this really is song of the year stuff; quietly ambitious, deeply personal, and wonderfully moving.